Tag Archives: Cold

Brrrr yup another winter weather post

Hey I haven’t posted a winter weather post for a few months now! LOL I’m due for one.

This morning our thermometer’s are reading -11F which is a record in these parts (official temp this morning -10F, old record was -8F from 1934). In these brutal days I pretty much use all of the battery for my 30 mile commute, arriving home with the <10 mile remaining warning indicator showing. I find my non-symmetric power consumption interesting: In the morning I precondition the car and attempt to use as little electricity is possible on my way in. For the drive home, however, I crank the heat and take the freeway maximizing power consumption. The net result is that I use about 25-30% of the battery in the morning and almost 60% of the battery in the evening.

Another thing that is noticeable about the car in such cold weather: The noise. On a balmy 70F degree day the car is virtually silent with only a slight whrrr noise from the front. In temps this cold things shrink and start rubbing differently, the plastic squeaks, the window creaks, the driver moans, etc. Makes you feel like something is going to break during the commute.

Thankfully this cold spell is happening in the 2nd half of February which means it can’t last too long…right? (Last year the cold spell started in January and thus the light at the end of the tunnel was a lot further off).

 

The beginning of EV Winter

Today marked the beginning of EV winter, or FFE winter if you will. Yeah another cold weather post–I know move south already LOL.

The momentous occasion to mark this event is that today was the first day, for me, when the car complained that its cold outside and should be plugged in. This morning our outside temps are about 24F–about two weeks ahead of “normal” for us.

Even though I’ve been through this once already I’m still experimenting. This week I bumped the precondition temps back up to 85F so the car would be nice and toasty again. The experimentation this time: Many people on the forums have mentioned that to prevent the windows from fogging up simply crack a window. Hmm if this works effectively and I still stay warm it could be the best way to drive in with the lowest power consumption in the dead of winter. This morning I had the drivers window cracked about 1/2″ and HVAC off for my 15 mile commute in. The window never fogged up and the temperature remained quite reasonable. I’ll have to try 1/4″ next week….

 

 

Here we go again…

Here it is late-October and the chill of fall is on us. Thus begins another six months or so of winter driving posts. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum (especially if this winter is much milder than last year..sheesh!).

Here in southeastern Michigan we’re getting frost almost every morning with milder afternoons–pretty typical for this time of year. This means that the morning drive is starting to become the power drive: Even after a precondition you still have to use some heat to stay comfortable. Long gone are the days of summer when I would wake up to the guess-o-meter saying the car had 100 miles of range.

Now that I’ve had the car for over a year I pretty much know what to expect from it in just about any condition (kind of also why I’ve been posting less here because there have been fewer “exceptions” to talk about). I feel a bit more comfortable with the guess-o-meter and the blue-cup on the dash and thus feel like I have a bit more freedom to do things like use the heat on the way in fully knowing that I’ll still be able to make it home without having to charge somewhere.

Just like owning any other car: once you’ve had it for a while you know what to expect out of it. With the FFE (or any EV), though, even if I barely make it home I can let it charge up over dinner and have it ready for most errands the night may bring.

 

Now here is something you can’t do with an ICE

Haven’t had a winter weather post in over a week! So here is one on this chilly last day of February:

Now that the truck is gone my FFE has been spending its nights inside the garage. Thus when I get in the car in the morning there is no snow to brush off and the temperature around the car is 20-30 degrees warmer than the outside air (since the car is preconditioned it is really warmer inside the car LOL).

This morning, though, with the outside temps <0F again, I did something I could never do with an ICE vehicle: “Started” the car with the garage door closed. That’s right: I got in the car, buckled up, started the car and got everything situated before I opened the garage door. With an ICE vehicle this is very risky: It is never a good idea to start an ICE car inside a closed environment (underground parking garages and tunnels have ventilation systems to exhaust the CO2 and bring in fresh air). In an EV, though, you can sit in the garage with the car “running” to your hearts content: No nasty gases will be generated at all (at least from the car), especially since you’re not moving thus the only electricity consumed is the 12V system powering the dash, radio, etc. All this to give the car that extra minute or two of warm up time and delay the time that I’m exposed to the outside air.

Winter can be done any time now..especially since tomorrow is March….

 

Brutal cold…Is it spring yet?

Its been what, over a week, since I last posted about winter driving issues? LOL

The next week or so is going to be almost as cold as the polar vortex was (granted we didn’t actually get the core of the polar vortex earlier this month–just a small eddy from it).

Yesterday the temps were in the single digits; this morning the news said -5 F (the car said 0 F–in either case simply cold). By now I’m already accustomed to the range loss and only expect the car to go 50 miles or less on a charge. The challenge in this really cold weather is how to keep the occupants (mostly myself) warm whilst still maximizing range. I’ve written before about my coworker’s solution (the 12V heated blanket); he has now added to his 12V accessories: a 12V window defroster (this item also uses less electricity than the car’s built in heater). The 12V defroster doesn’t help when the temps fall into the single digits and colder though–it only clears away a small “hole” in the frost.

So far all of my experiments have been attempting to use different settings on the climate control and some RainX anti-fog towlettes. My current results: In the deep cold its best to just hit the “Max defrost” button and let that run for 30-60 seconds and turn it off than any of the other settings, and the jury’s still out on the RainX anti-fog: I have one treatment on it and the window still fogs up a bit. This morning I did use a small lap blanket; just the blanket combined with the seat-heat works quite well to keep me comfortable.

Ford really does need to come up with a better heating solution than the one currently in the FFE–at times it uses more power than the drive motor!

 

 

 

That squeak of really cold snow!

A quick post this morning and another winter weather observation:

If you saw my other post about our first big snow storm of this winter (affecting a lot more than just Southeastern Michigan) you’ll know that we got something like 8″ + of snow.

This morning, though, is a little different: The storm is gone, most of the roads are clear, it was warm enough for the salt to work. The temperatures overnight, however, were down into the single digits. At these temperatures road salt is less effective, and any resulting water on the roads turns to ice or an icy slush.

My observations here aren’t about that. You know when the weather gets really cold snow starts making that squeak as you walk around in it. Now imagine four feet stomping down holding up 3000 lbs on that squeaky snow! Yes with the Focus Electric being such a quiet car, driving around in squeaky snow results in a cacophony of that squeaky snow noise inside the car. I was a little surprised at how noticeable it was from inside the quiet car.

The things you notice when you don’t have the noisy internal combustion engine dominating the ambient sound field.

 

Another weather related observation

Here is an interesting thought/observation: If you keep your EV outside in the winter (as I do) you’ll often wake up to a bunch of snow piled up on the car. In my case, during weekday mornings, the car will heat itself up and melt off some of that snow–mostly the snow on the windows. Snow on the roof and hood typically will stay.

Here is the thing: If that snow is the slightest bit sticky and you don’t clear it off it will stay on the car. EVs don’t generate all the excess heat like an ICE vehicle does that would melt the snow off the hood (and most likely the roof as the heater will be run continuously throughout the commute). Since we’re driving with the heat off most of the time to extend the range as much as possible the cabin doesn’t stay warm during the commute and heat the roof.

The net affect of all this is that any snow on the car will stay there until its physically removed (scraped off, car wash, etc.). If left to accumulate that snow could have an overall negative impact on range–snow weighs a lot.
Snow on the car in the cold

 

Some numbers on the cold

Last night I took some data down on how much electricity the car used overnight while charging (should have done this in the summer months as well!).

To start with I recorded my power usage for the day (at least what the car thought it was using, this value corresponded with 59% of the battery remaining):
Trip meter display

These numbers are somewhat typical for my daily commute. Ironically this commute was on a rather cold day with just under 1/4″ of snowfall overnight. Preconditioning the car combined with everyone’s cautious driving caused me to only use 7.2kWh of electricity! These past few cold days I’ve been using closer to 8kWh of electricity for my 31 mile commute.

Right when I arrived home I grabbed my meter reading (the car’s EVSE has its own meter):
Meter reading 1

At the time I plugged it in the outside temperature was 35F and thus the car stated “Waiting to charge” with my normal start time of 1:00am. As the evening went on the temperature dropped–when it hit freezing the car switched from waiting until 1:00am to waiting to start at the current time–it was starting its warming/trickle charge cycle.
This morning I recorded the meter right before driving away (with no preconditioning, outside temp: 20F):
Meter reading 2

So overnight the car used a total of 10kWh to keep itself warm, and charge up to 100%. Thus 7.2kWh of that went into the battery along with some burned up in the charger due to the charging efficiency (according to the EPA charging efficiency is roughly 80%) which would be about 2kWh. This leaves about 1 kWh used overnight to keep the car warm. (I’m being purposely vague here because I don’t know the exact efficiency of my EVSE + car combination. Doing the math directly yields 1.36 kWh which is close enough to my 1 kWh value.)

The numbers above align rather nicely with the daily average power consumption reported by my electricity provider. The daily averages per month also seem to be reflecting the additional power usage as the temperatures drop:

  • September: 9.9 kWh/day
  • October: 10.1 kWh/day
  • November: 12.8 kWh/day

Around here the temperatures took a dive in November which is reflected in the numbers. There are other factors in those numbers as well: In September and early October we were driving around a bit more each day due to various school/sporting activities (which may be the reason that there is only a 0.2 difference between September and October).

At this point, with our early blast of arctic air, I’ve been very pleased with the performance of the FFE–I was expecting a much greater drop in total range as an affect of cold weather.

Update: Power required for a precondition. Prior to driving the car across town for Thanksgiving I had set it up to precondition to 85F. This was the perfect opportunity to measure how much that takes. Before the car started the meter looked like this:
Power meter
Just before leaving I grabbed a picture of the meter (when the car was done preconditioning):
Power meter
Thus the car used about 5kWh of electricity to warm itself up from the ambient 25F.

 

Staying warm…

A common problem for EV drivers is staying warm in the winter. Everyone attempts to reduce their electricity consumption in order to increase the range. As the weather gets colder out you run the heater more and more. The heater in an EV can be the most inefficient item in the car (at least it is in the Focus Electric, I hear the latest incarnations of the Leaf use a heat pump which is much more efficient–more like the A/C compressor instead of just running current through a wire). In any case you want to use as little heat as possible…

One solution is to bring along a blanket and wrap your legs up. Even better is this 12V Heating blanket. From the web page it looks like it consumes about 50 watts–much much lower than the Focus Electric’s heating element…
12V Heated blanket

Really getting cold here now…

This morning it was down to a chilly 24 degrees F–by far the coldest morning for the Focus Electric yet. Its so cold today that even the car is complaining:
Cold weather warning

Where I’m at the car is reading 24 F but the forecast is for warmer:
Weather forecast

Since I can’t plug in at work I did the best I could: Parked the car in a spot where it will get plenty of sunshine (when it rises). Hopefully that provides a little warmth for it.
We even got a little snow overnight:
Snow covered

But with the “Go” time set to 85F this is what was waiting for me when I left for work:
Go times go!

I also used the most electricity I’ve ever used on my 15 mile commute in to work leaving the battery state at 68% charged (yesterday it was as high as 77%–lately its been averaging somewhere around 75%. In the summer the best state was 80% after the morning commute).

This still leaves me plenty of juice for the 15 mile downhill commute. As winter progresses I don’t expect it to get much worse (as temperatures around here don’t really get much lower than the 20s).